Rwanda Supreme Court okays constitutional amendment, Kagame’s third term bid

WE SHALL KEEP FIGHTING: Dr. Frank Habineza, President, Rwanda Democratic Green Party

WE SHALL KEEP FIGHTING: Dr. Frank Habineza, President, Rwanda Democratic Green Party

The Rwandan Supreme Court has ruled against the Green Party’s attempts to stop the government from changing the constitution, lift the term limit provision and allow President Paul Kagame to run for a third term.

Green Party’s loss in the highest court in the land means there is nothing standing in the way of the constitutional amendment process that is currently ongoing in parliament.

Rwanda’s parliament has already set up a special commission that will guide and advice on constitutional amendment, especially article 101.

Two weeks ago, the Green party had asked the Supreme Court of Rwanda to stop the activities of the appointed Constitutional commission saying that its functions were illegal and unconstitutional.
Green party lawyer Defense lawyer, Antoinette Mukamusoni had argued that at the time when the constitution was put in place, it was clear in vocabulary that it is prohibited to try to amend this specific article. “Why are they changing this now, yet it’s very clear-it is prohibited” she said.

The government defense team however stated that there is nothing new or surprising because reasons for the amendment are because of the will of the people whom the constitution serves.

In the court’s conclusive remarks on the issue, Supreme Court Judge Prof. Samuel Rugege, said the case is ruled in favour of government, which means that automatically the amendment process will go on as planned.

Rugege said that based on the voices of the people, who are the ones who put the constitution in place, they can also change it through a democratic process.

The Supreme Court Judge also ruled the Green Party did not make their case against the government and the ongoing lawful and democratic process to change article 101 of the constitution regarding presidential term limits.

Reacting to the development, Green Party President Dr. Frank Habineza said that the party is not going to give up on their cause and will push the case to the limits as much as possible.

Habineza said that the next move is to submit their appeal to the president of Rwanda, and as a last resort the party will hold campaigns countrywide to sensitize the electorate to vote ‘NO’ in the upcoming constitutional amendment referendum.

There has been a growing movement in Rwanda to have President Kagame run for the third term but the constitution in its current form bars the president from running again.

The constitution provides for a two seven-year term limit for the head of state thus the need and urgency to sort out the legal hurdles to facilitate the president’s run.

Critics, especially those in the diaspora have condemned the move saying the whole process was orchestrated by the president and his ruling Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) to ensure Kagame holds on to power.

Recently the United States has urged the current Rwandan government and legislature to reconsider plans to change the constitution.

“We respect the ability of any parliament to pass legislation that reflects the will of the people it is elected to represent; however, we continue to firmly support the principle of democratic transition of power in all countries through free, fair, and credible elections, held in accordance with constitutions, including provisions regarding term limits.” State Department Spokesperson John Kirby said in September.

Millions of people, including opposition politicians have petitioned parliament to debate and lift term limit to facilitate Kagame’s third term run and the legislature has agreed to debate the issue.

The Green Party is the only opposition organization to speak out and file suit against the looming constitutional change and Kagame’s third term move.